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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Stepping stones and such

TGIF!!! Heh, every day is like a Friday here.. We get no holidays or weekends off, but every day is a thanked for one.

The weather was beautiful all day long.. But a couple of days of hard weeding left me in not so awesome shape to go out and do some more. Sometimes I wish I could have a doctor, so I could occasionally be prescribed a muscle relaxer or a stronger than aspirin pain killer. It's not often, but man, sometimes I really wish I had it available.
Anywho, since I was so not feeling the yardwork today, it was up into the workshop instead. Got my crazy flowered caftan done.

Tonight for dinner I made creamed stuff and biscuits. Used some dried mushrooms and asparagus, crumbled up a couple leftover hamburger patties, some seasonings, flour, milk... mmmm...

Saturday, another lovely day :)

An interesting event yesterday evening... The south neighbors... Hmmm, pulling onto our easement drive with their boat... grrr. Allrighty, time to toss on some shoes and go knock on their door. And it was the two other brothers this time. We had a rather nice and civil chat. It was.. odd... refreshing... hopefully more than just smoke up our ass. Apparently their basement (it's a walkout and way lower than ours) got badly flooded in the spring rains. And they said they didn't realize the drive was ours really, thought it was the back neighbors, and said they wouldn't be on it any more. Hopefully that will hold true. They also seemed rather disappointed with other family members behavior, gave us a business card and wrote their home number down, telling us to call us no matter what time or what's going on if anything is wrong. And said they would bring me a big tub of the sub garnish we love so much.  And hold on tight- they told us the whole clan will be out for the fourth. And I'm betting the north neighbors will hold true to tradition and have a clan in too.

I turned out the first set of stepping stones. Yep, they had the slightly powdery pour surface from a bit too much water. But they turned out beautifully without a problem. So I made up the next batch. still used more water than the directions, but two cups less than last time. A half gallon just does not get all the mix really wet, it's always still really crumbly and some dry left. Anywho, two cups less water didn't really affect the filling at all, still filled all 4 molds quite nicely. And I figured that with the bag costing 2 bucks, and the set stuff costing pennies or recycled, those stones are about 50-60 cents a piece. And these aren't small molds- 16 inch hexagon, 14 inch knotwork circle, and two 10x12 rectangles, all the couple inches deep they are supposed to be. It is sooo much cheaper and worth it to cast your own stones.
After that, I wanted to pick up a couple more bags of quickcrete! I figure it's wiser to do a couple bags at a time so I don't chance the bag freezing up like last time before I had enough molds. So now I have a couple more bags to work with.

So it's Tuesday already..

Yesterday was rainy, and kind of cruddy and the kind of day where you want to just curl up in bed with the cats and hide from the world.. so we did. Had ourselves a True Blood marathon. The show is good, but has taken some plot turns that are so way off the books... Oooph.

Today was a nice day out. I turned the next set of stepping stones out and started set three. Started using some of the new glass cabs I picked up for super cheap. I hope they turn out ok- I kind of screwed up while applying the mix and I know I skewed some cabs around, hope they didn't skew out too much. I'm going to need to cast a couple divided hex stones so I have a smooth line along the fence where I will be putting those in. That will be easy enough with a strip of cardboard.
This whole project, I'm feeling good about it. I've been wanting to get into casting again, and I'm pleased to be doing so. It's very zen setting up the stones.

So, now that I have done this a couple times and gotten back into the swing of casting...

Start out by prepping your molds. You don't want your crete setting while you are dithering around.
Always use release agent. I use petroleum jelly. I also use hard plastic molds. I give a thin film to the whole interior of the mold. If I'm pressing in small flat glass cabs or bottle caps, I leave it at that. If I'm using larger or rough surface stuff, I dab jelly right onto the exposed surface to make sure it seats right.
With using jelly, it's exactly like buttering a pan for baking. Including coating of details- you want a coating, don't fill it to the point where the detail gets lost. If you have a pattern you want to use, trace it onto thin paper and press well into the mold, just like baking. Then fully coat the dry surface of the paper and set your stuff into place. The paper will peel right off after casting. Don't bother spending money on sticky paper to do this. If you want a reusable pattern, use thin stiff sheet plastic. If you have a good drawing hand, you can just trace out the shape you want into the film of jelly itself.
Also like buttering a pan... Use a paper towel for the application, way cleaner and better at ensuring a smooth and even coating.
Please note, don't use jelly if you are using rubber/silicone/latex kind of molds. Petroleum erodes it.

Once you have your molds prepped up, time to mix crete. I tend to like my crete more of a slurry than generally recommended, a half gallon to 60 pounds. I tend to use a quart and a half more than that when I'm setting stuff into the stone- makes it easier to shake it around the stuff. If I'm casting stones with nothing set into it, I still  tend to add at least another quart of water. I use a half gallon measure for the water, dump it in, then fill the next half gallon. I add the second half as needed to get the consistency I want.
I mix my crete in a wheelbarrow with my hands. With a heavy pair of long rubbery gloves on of course because crete can be caustic.
I use a recycled dairy container as my scoop- scoop in a couple of crete carefully drizzling over your set in stuff, tapping, then pouring more on.

It is really important to tap out your molds a few times while pouring. You want to make sure everything is evenly distributed and you get air bubbles out.

Give your stones goodly time to dry well before unmolding. Sure, you can unmold in 24 hours, but I've found better success if you let it go for at least 48- and besides, you should let them cure for at least a week before setting them in. You risk cracking or weakening by unmolding too early, just like baking cakes.

So, I got some pics to load up...

 So this is the capping job I came up with when we got the freeze warning and I had three hours till the temps started dropping... The next day when it was all sunny and warm again like nothing happened. Over the black tubs with tomatoes are disposable garbage cans, milk jugs on the litter buckets, and some garbage bags with bamboo skewers doing a float over the beans.
 Another angle of the same thing. Along the back of the line you can see the spring plants growing in around the compost bin that have since this pic been cut down and stacked up on with more greens for composting.
 This is the first two quarts of bar soap to liquid soap experiment. Orange woodsy on the left, lemony citrus on the right. These soaps weren't originally this color- I added food color to tell them apart. The pick does not do justice to the cool pearlesent effect in the soap.
 This is the Neutrogena soap grated up- I had problems with this one, it stayed liquid through the reheat, but firmed up correctly under the addition of 3T salt= 1 cup hot water whisk in.

 These three pics show how a tray looks like with the fresh blanched and shocked asparagus, a tray full of fresh after drying, and what five pounds of fresh looks like all dried up and piled on to one tray for reference before putting away in the pantry.

 Pickled Asparagus, garlicky brussels sprouts, and lemony cauliflower all wiped down and rings off for their storage in the pantry.

 This is the cute vintage Hawaiian all done up and on the dummy. Picked up the fabric on clearance, and the pattern I traced off Bad Bear. Why yes, I have worn this while sipping morning coffee looking over the gardens.  Part of homesteading is making your own clothing sometimes.

 A couple pics of the irises I transplanted and the trimming I need to do to fill out the bed. This year a few of those stems are marked out to go to other gardens when the time comes to dig them up and ship them.
 This is the knotwork circle, prepped up. The pic does not really show the slightly heavier jelly where the moon is set in.
 The first of the hexes for the bee patio. This shows fairly well the swirling of prep before the caps were set in.
 These are aroundish one inch glass cubes- they were frosted with heaver jelly before being set into place.
 What all four filled molds looked like with the not needed right now border stone mold.
 A squirrel on the front porch, checking out some maple spinners.

Same squirrel, now it figured out Nova and I were checking it out.

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